By KBB.com Editors
Hyundai is quickly becoming a major player in the U.S. market, demonstrating an uncanny ability to produce high-quality products at bargain-basement prices. The latest example of the company's accelerated design evolution is the Sonata, a roomy and well-equipped sedan challenging the dominance of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry (at least on paper) but costing thousands less. Built at Hyundai's factory in Alabama, the Sonata boasts an impressive list of standard safety equipment, helping it earn a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also carries one of the best powertrain warranties in the business.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're attracted to the idea of a feature-filled mid-size sedan that won't bust your budget, the Hyundai Sonata should be one of the cars on your list. Also worth noting is Hyundai's very real commitment to including a high level of standard safety equipment on every vehicle.You May Not Like This Car If...
The Sonata carries the unenviable burden of competing in the same category as the Accord and Camry, perennial industry benchmarks in quality. For anyone accustomed to that top-level refinement, the Sonata's higher level of equipment for the money might not be enough to tip the scales in its favor.What's Significant About This Car?
A new SE trim is added to the Sonata lineup and features 17-inch wheels and a V6 engine. The four-cylinder GLS models receive a price reduction while the top-end Limited trim gets a new chrome grille and optional Infinity sound system. Both the four- and six-cylinder engines now qualify the Sonata as an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Hyundai Sonata drives like a small car. On the plus side, that means more nimble and confident handling. On the flip side, that means a ride less insulated from rough roads. Over smooth highways, our V6 Sonata GLS was comfortable and quiet, even with its low-profile tires. It also delivered brisk accelerationboth off the line and in short-order passing situationswhile the five-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly and responded quickly to manual commands. Overall, the new Sonata does many things well. But unlike some of its world-beating competitors, the new Sonata is merely equal to the sum of its parts.Favorite Features
Automatic Air Quality System
When a sensor detects an excess of pollen or diesel fumes, for instance, the ventilation system automatically switches into the recirculate mode.
Aggressive Low-Profile Tires
The same tires you might expect to find on a sporty coupe help to make the V6 Sonata a worthy companion on meandering roads.
Although the Sonata competes in the mid-size sedan category, the EPA actually groups it in the "Large Car" category due to its interior space. Even though it barely makes the Large Car cutoff, the Sonata treats front and rear passengers to a cabin that is spacious and comfortable, although some might find the front seat bottom lacking in thigh support due to its minimal up-angle adjustment. Its attractive environment also features nicer materials and cleaner designs than many might expect, with the exception of the center of the instrument panel. In spots where cheap plastic seems inevitable, Sonata's designers have done a fine job in minimizing its impact.Exterior
The Hyundai Sonata features significantly more contemporary styling than previous generations, though some might argue the design is also somewhat generic. The SE trim's available features, like dual chrome exhaust outlets and 17-inch aluminum wheels equipped with aggressive Michelin Pilot tires, provide a little more character. Overall, we like the Sonata's new styling, even if it's squarely on the safe side, and don't see any single design feature likely to turn anybody away from the car.Notable Standard Equipment
One of the Sonata's key selling points is its impressive equipment list, including an admirable array of standard safety features. The base Sonata features a sophisticated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated power side mirrors and leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. The long list of standard safety equipment includes front, front-side and head-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) and whiplash-reducing active front head restraints.Notable Optional Equipment
Available upgrades include a 234-horsepower V6, four-speed and five-speed automatic transmissions with manual gear select, leather seats, moonroof, Infinity AM/FM/6CD/MP3 sound system, alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, automatic headlamps, trip computer, fog lights, heated front seats, eight-way power driver's seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic temperature control. A Sport Premium package is offered on the four-cylinder GLS and includes 17-inch alloy wheels and fog lights.Under the Hood
The base powertrain package in the 2006 Hyundai Sonata is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission, which complements the car's nimble handling better than the same engine in conjunction with the available four-speed automatic transmission. With dual overhead cams and continuously variable valve timing, this all-aluminum engine is good for 162 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque. The best partnership under the hood, however, is the sophisticated new 3.3-liter V6 and the responsive five-speed automatic transmission. With 234 horsepower, 226 pound-feet of torque and manually selectable gears, it isn't hard to coax the V6 Sonata into having a little fun.
2.4-liter in-line 4
162 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
164 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34 (manual), 24/33 (automatic)
234 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/30
The Hyundai Sonata GLS with the manual transmission has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $17,795, while the same model with the four-speed automatic is $18,895. The sporty SE has an MSRP of $21,595, while the luxurious Limited is $23,595. And while these prices can be up to $4,000 lower than some of the Sonata's best-selling competitors', lower resale values should be taken into consideration. We do, however, expect to see Hyundai vehicles command increasingly better prices in the resale market. To be sure you don't pay too much for your Sonata, check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows the typical transaction price being paid in your area.